Who are the 100 most influential psychologists of the 20th Century?
Updated: Jan 16, 2022
For four years, I read textbooks. Thousands of pages of summaries, which never once inspired me or left a memorable impression. I was a dutiful student, but I admit to skipping a few (hundred) pages here or there during my undergraduate degree (B.Sc. Psychology). There were several rare-yet-memorable occasions when it was required to actually read the source material, to go back and read some of the old greats. I had a wonderful professor for neuropsychology who was so passionate about Luria, that I actually tried to read some of his work. But mostly, I read textbooks. It was not until years later, during my graduate degree (M.A. Counselling Psychology), that I was exposed to the original works of Adler, Bowlby, Jung, and Rogers. The reading kindled a fire in my heart. I jumped into Frankl, Freud, May, and Piaget on my own time. I was encouraged by my clinical and thesis supervisors to identify those psychologists whose works I found most stimulating and read, read, read. Once, when I expressed dismay about hitting a wall in my thesis, one of my mentors at the university said "it sounds like you need to read more." She was right. In a six-month period, I devoured more than 1000 pages of Carl Rogers' articles and books and watched every video I could dig up of the old man in action. I can honestly say that the experience was cathartic and enlightening.
As is often the case with catharsis and insight, I also felt frustration for the way things had been before. Why hadn't I read Freud in first year psychology? Why had our professors told some deprecatory remarks about Freud's obsession with sex and a 5-bullet-point overview of his developmental theory (which was forgotten 1-month post-class)? Shouldn't we have been tasked with reading at least part of "Attachment and Loss" in the developmental psychology course? Why were Bruner and Loftus absent from cognitive psychology class? How could it be that, in a four-year period, I had read so little of the "old greats"?,
So, I have decided to use that frustration to a constructive end. I have borrowed a list from an article published by Steven Haggbloom and 10 of his colleagues called "The 100 most eminent psychologists of the 20th century," which was published in 2002. From now on, I'll call this "the eminence study." I encourage you to actually read the eminence study if you are curious about the way the research was conducted. The authors endeavored to create as objective as possible a way of measuring "eminence" but have faced critical feedback about the rank ordering of the list. If you would like to learn more about how they defined "eminence" in the study, click this link. For the purposes of this article, I'm going to use the more plainly stated "who are the most influential psychologists?" even though the terms are not exactly the same.
I have written this article for the students of psychology in the world. You do not have to be enrolled at a college or university to be a student of psychology. Anyone with a curiosity and desire to learn more about behaviour and the mind is a student of psychology. This article is a starting point for you. For each of the psychologists on the list in the eminence study, I have written one sentence to summarize why this person was so influential in psychology. These summaries are necessarily flawed. It's not really possible to reduce a person to a sentence. So, if you have any feedback about a better summary for any person on this list, please let me know and I will consider your suggestions. When you read that one-sentence summary, you might suddenly have an idea, see something in your imagination, or recall a memory from your own life. If that happens, this is the sign. It's time to follow your curiosity. Stop reading this article, and go "read the old greats" for yourself. Dive in wherever feels right for you and enjoy the ride. When you find one person you love, it often leads to the next one. Try not to fret about what you "should" read and, instead, follow what you love. It is my hope that you can use this article to find the psychologist(s) whose work speaks to you, the people who have already done the hard work to investigate the same topics that you find most compelling, and then... read.
The List is in the same order as the eminence study. The List shows each person’s full name, their year of birth and death (in brackets), and a single sentence summary of this person's influence in psychology. I have provided links to suggested reading (through Google Scholar or Goodreads) and viewing (through YouTube) for each person. I have biases and I have probably made mistakes. (For transparency’s sake, I am fond of Piaget, Rogers, Maslow, Jung, Bruner, Bowlby, Luria, and Vygotsky. You may notice differences in the quality of each entry due to my liking of these people.) Finally, you may encounter terminology that you do not know as you read. I have put together a list of Psychology Terms that you can use as you read.
1. Burrhus Frederic Skinner (1904-1990): Skinner founded the school of radical
behaviourism and demonstrated that behaviour could be trained through reward and punishment, also called conditioning. Reading: About Behaviourism & Teaching Machines. Viewing: A World of Difference: Skinner and the Good Life.
2. Jean Piaget (1896-1980): Piaget studied the way children think and perceive the world in order to determine the origin and nature of knowledge, which revolutionized the field of developmental psychology. Reading: The Psychology of the Child & Play, Dreams, & Imitation in Childhood. Viewing: Piaget on Piaget
3. Sigmund Freud (1856-1939): Freud created the first form of psychotherapy, called psychoanalysis, developed theories of personality and sexual development, and introduced the public to such concepts as the ego and the unconscious mind. Reading: The Interpretation of Dreams & Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality. Viewing: Sigmund Freud: The Father of Psychoanalysis.
4. Albert Bandura (1925-2021): Bandura's experiments in the field of social psychology advanced social learning theory, which postulates that people learn by observing others, and developed the concept of self-efficacy. Reading: Self-Efficacy & Social cognitive theory: An agentic perspective. Viewing: Inside the Psychologist’s Studio with Albert Bandura & Albert Bandura discusses Moral Disengagement.
5. Leon Festinger (1919-1989): Festinger created the concept of cognitive dissonance and created social comparison theory, which describes the ways people evaluate themselves based on comparisons with others. Reading: A Theory of Social Comparison Processes Viewing: A Lesson in Cognitive Dissonance.
6. Carl Ransom Rogers (1902-1987): Rogers was a pioneer in psychotherapy research and created client-centred therapy (also called person-centred) and student-centred teaching, developed theories of psychological growth and therapeutic change, and became involved in international peace efforts. Reading: On Becoming a Person & The Necessary and Sufficient Conditions of Therapeutic Personality Change Viewing: Carl Rogers and Gloria & A Journey Into Self.
7. Stanley Schachter (1922-1997): Schachter created the two-factor theory of emotion, which states that emotions involve both physiological (body) and cognitive (mind) elements and influenced psychological research in diverse topics such as birth order, obesity, and smoking. Reading: Cognitive, social, and physiological determinants of emotional state & Manipulated time and eating behaviour. Viewing: Schachter’s Affiliation Study.
8. Neal Elgar Miller (1909-2002): Miller was a pioneering researcher who demonstrated the link between brain and behaviour, mind and body, and conducted groundbreaking studies on biofeedback. Reading: Neal E. Miller and his research & Experiments in motivation. Viewing: Motivation and Reward in Learning 1948 Yale University.
9. Edward Thorndike (1874-1949): Thorndike was one of the first American psychologists whose research on how animals learn influenced both behavioural and educational psychology. Reading: The law of effect. Viewing: Puzzle box.
10. Abraham Harold Maslow (1908-1970): Maslow researched psychologically healthy and flourishing individuals; developed theories of growth, motivation, needs, peak experiences, personality, and values; and was a founding member of humanistic, transpersonal, and positive psychology. Reading: A theory of human motivation. Viewing: Abraham Maslow and the Psychology of Self-Actualization & Abraham Maslow and Self Actualization.
11. Gordon Willard Allport (1897-1967): Allport was a pioneer in personality research, developing one of the first trait theories of personality, as well as research on prejudice and religion. Reading: What is a trait of personality? & The Nature of Prejudice. Viewing: Gordon Allport on Meeting Freud.
12. Erik Homburger Erikson (1902-1994): Erikson researched human psychological development across the lifespan from birth until death, coined the term “identity crisis,” and created a theory of personality development broken into eight (or nine) stages. Reading: Childhood and Society & Youth: Fidelity and diversity. Viewing: Erik Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development in Infancy and Early Childhood
13. Hans Jürgen Eysenck (1916-1997): Eysenck researched both intelligence and personality, published highly controversial views that contradicted both psychoanalysis and public opinion, and created a model of personality which remains influential today. Reading: Biological basis of personality. Viewing: Hans J. Eysenck, Ph.D. Lifetalk with Roberta Russell on Psychoanalysis.
14. William James (1842-1910): James was the first person to teach psychology in North America and his publications on the principles of psychology (published 1890) and the psychology of religion and spirituality have remained tremendously influential in multiple disciplines for more than 100 years. Reading: The Varieties of Religious Experience & What is an emotion? Viewing: William James and the Sick Soul
15. David Clarence McClelland (1917-1998): McClelland’s research on motivation, needs, and personality has been highly influential in organizational psychology. Reading: The Achieving Society. Viewing: David McClelland and Three Motivational Needs
16. Raymond Bernard Cattell (1905-1998): Cattell created novel methods of researching intelligence, motivation, personality, and temperament during his career and his 16-factor theory of personality has been tremendously influential in personality psychology. Reading: The scree test for the number of factors & Personality structure and measurement Viewing: Cattell-Horn-Carroll theory.
17. John Broadus Watson (1878-1958): Watson researched behaviour and conditioning in animals and humans, advancing behaviourism as an objective and scientific school within psychology, and influenced commercial advertising. Reading: Conditioned emotional reactions. Viewing: John Watson – Little Albert & Watson’s Theory of Behaviourism.
18. Kurt Lewin (1890-1947): Lewin researched group dynamics, change at the personal and organizational level, and created action research, which is a form of scientific research aimed at addressing social problems. Reading: Resolving Social Conflicts & Kurt Lewin and the origins of action research. Viewing: Explaining Kurt Lewin’s Change Theory.
19. Donald Olding Hebb (1904-1985): Hebb advanced the field of neuropsychology through his research in theory on the link between brain and behaviour as well as his long teaching career. Reading: The Organization of Behaviour: A Neuropsychological Theory & Drives and the C.N.S. (conceptual nervous system). Viewing: Hebb’s Three Postulates: from Brain to Soma.
20. George Armitage Miller (1920-2012): Miller’s research in memory and language was instrumental in the birth of both cognitive psychology and psycholinguistics. Reading: The magical number seven, plus or minus two: Some limits on our capacity for processing information & How children learn words. Viewing: Miller’s Law Explained.
21. Clark Leonard Hull (1884-1952): Hull’s early research on human aptitudes, behaviour, drives (motivation), and hypnosis and mathematically-rigorous theorizing helped solidify psychology as a true natural science in its early days in North America. Reading: Mind, mechanism, and adaptive behaviour. Viewing: Clark Hull’s Drive Reduction Theory Explained .
22. Jerome Kagan (1929-2021): Kagan’s research on human personality development from infancy through to adulthood demonstrated how temperament is a key predictive factor in the patterns of behaviour and emotion that characterize an individual throughout their life. Reading: Biological bases of childhood shyness & Galen’s Prophecy: Temperament in Human Nature . Viewing: Jerome Kagan – On Temperament & temperament Kagan.
23. Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961): Jung’s work as a therapist and researcher of human art, culture, psychological development, myth, religion, and more has influenced numerous fields and introduced many concepts to the public, including complexes, extroversion and introversion, and synchronicity. Reading: Memories, Dreams, Reflections (A biography written in everyday language that helps introduce one to Jung’s thinking) & The concept of the collective unconscious (A more difficult but short essay that introduces two of Jung’s most fascinating ideas). Viewing: Face to Face | Carl Gustav Jung (1959) HQ & Carl Jung – What are the Archetypes?
24. Ivan Petrovich Pavlov (1849-1936): Pavlov’s research on the nervous system and reflexes of animals (“Pavlov’s Dogs”) formed the basis of future psychological research in behaviourism, especially conditioning, learning, and temperament. Reading: The reply of a physiologist to psychologists & Conditioned Reflexes. Viewing: Classical Conditioning & Ivan Pavlov: His Dogs and Conditioning Theory (A much longer video on the same topic).
25. Walter Mischel (1930-2018): Mischel revolutionized the field of personality psychology by arguing for greater emphasis on situational factors, yet his pioneering research in delaying gratification and self-control (the “Marshmallow Test”) is his most famous contribution to psychology. Reading: Delay of gratification in children & Toward a cognitive social learning reconceptualization of personality. Viewing: Walter Mischel clarifies his theory of personality (Mischel begins his explanation at ~4 minutes) & The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self Control | Walter Mischel.
26. Harry Frederick Harlow (1905-1981): Harlow’s experimental research on maternal dependency and separation, social isolation, and their relation to psychological development have been both tremendously controversial and influential in the study of attachment and love. Reading: Maternal behavior of Rhesus monkeys deprived of mothering and peer associations in infancy & The evolution of Harry Harlow. Viewing: Harlow’s Studies on Dependency in Monkeys
27. Joy Paul Guilford (1897-1987): Guilford researched creativity and intelligence and developing a multi-dimensional model of intellectual functions called the “Structure of Intellect.” Reading: Can creativity be developed? & Some changes in the structure of intellect model. Viewing: Structure of Intellect.
28. Jerome Seymour Bruner (1915-2016): Bruner’s research on development, language, learning and teaching, perception, stories, and thinking has been influential in the fields of cognitive, developmental, educational, and legal psychology and gave birth to narrative psychology. Reading: The narrative construction of reality & Acts of Meaning. Viewing: Jerome Bruner – How Does Teaching Influence Learning? & Jerome Bruner on Discovery Learning.
29. Ernest Ropiequet “Jack” Hilgard (1904-2001): Hilgard researched the nature of consciousness through his extensive studies on hypnosis, dissociation, and pain. Reading: Responsiveness to suggestions following waking and imagination instructions and following induction of hypnosis & Consciousness in contemporary psychology. Viewing: Hypnosis, Pain, and Dissociation (This is not Hilgard in the video, but the principles are the same).
30. Lawrence Kohlberg (1927-1987): Kohlberg researched the development of moral reasoning in children, adolescents, and adults which has been influential in both education and psychology. Reading: Moral development: A review of the theory. Viewing: Kohlberg’s 6 Stages of Moral Development.
31. Martin Elias Pete Seligman (1942-present): Seligman developed the concept of learned helplessness early in his career, later turning his attention to the study of well-being, founding the field of positive psychology. Reading: Learned helplessness in humans: Critique and reformulation & Positive psychology: An introduction. Viewing: The new era of positive psychology | Martin Seligman.
32. Ulric Richard Gustav Neisser (1928-2012): Neisser demonstrated that mental processes could be studied scientifically, founding the field of cognitive psychology, and publishing many influential studies on intelligence and memory. Reading: John Dean’s memory: A case study & The concept of intelligence.
33. Donald Thomas Campbell (1916-1996): Campbell’s research on bias, false knowledge, prejudice, and publications on research design and the cultural evolution have been tremendously influential in psychology and many other fields. Reading: Convergent and discriminant validation by the multitrait-multimethod matrix (this article is a "required reading" for anyone interested in experimental psychology) & Assessing the impact of planned social change.
34. Roger William Brown (1925-1997): Brown researched and wrote on a wide number of topics, contributing greatly to the field of psycholinguistics and teaching psychology for more than forty years. Reading: The Pronouns of Power and Solidarity & The “Tip of the Tongue” Phenomenon & Linguistic Determinism and the Part of Speech.
35. Robert Bolesław Zajonc (1923-2008): Zajonc [Zai-yonts] advanced the field of social psychology greatly by demonstrating the mere-exposure effect, social facilitation, and by re-igniting interest in the study of emotion. Reading: Social Facilitation & Attitudinal effects of mere exposure & Feeling and thinking: Preferences need no inferences.
36. Endel Tulving (1927-present): Tulving’s research on consciousness and memory has been especially influential, introducing the concepts of episodic, implicit, procedural, and semantic memory systems. Reading: Episodic and Semantic Memory & Memory and consciousness. Viewing: Dr. Endel Tulving.
37. Herbert Alexander Simon (1916-2001): Simon influenced the fields of artificial intelligence, cognitive psychology, computer science, political science, and public administration through his research in problem solving, information processing, and language. Reading: Bounded rationality and organizational learning & The architecture of complexity. Viewing: Herbert A. Simon – Unedited Interview about History of AI at CMU from 1955-1985 & Herbert A. Simon – What is Intuition?.
38. Avram Noam Chomsky (1928-present): Chomsky revolutionized cognitive psychology and linguistics with his research on language acquisition and development in addition to his work as a researcher of mass media, social critic, and political activist. Reading: The “Chomskyan Era” & Understanding Power. Viewing: Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media – Feature Film & The Concept of Language.
39. Edward Ellsworth “Ned” Jones (1926-1993): Jones introduced such concepts as the fundamental attribution error, correspondent inference theory, and self-handicapping through his experimental researches in social psychology. Reading: Control of attributions about the self through self-handicapping strategies & The attribution of attitudes. Viewing: What is the Fundamental Attribution Error?.
40. Charles Egerton Osgood (1916-1991): Osgood researched the link between language, thought, and the brain, developing methods and theories for understanding communication, cultural differences, and peace. Reading: The nature and measurement of meaning & Semantic differential technique and the comparative study of cultures. Viewing: Osgood Schramm Communication Model.
41. Solomon Eliot Asch (1907-1996): Asch’s research on group pressure, suggestion via prestige, and other forms of social influence advanced both the field of social psychology and public understanding of conformity. Reading: Forming impressions of personality & Opinions and social pressure & Studies of Independence and Conformity. Viewing: Asch Conformity Experiment.
42. Gordon Howard Bower (1932-2020): Bower researched human learning and memory and focused especially on factors that influence recall, such as mood, which lead him to propose the concept of state dependent memory. Reading: Mood effects on person-perception judgments & Mood and memory. Viewing: Gordon H. Bower – 2005 National Medal of Science & Inside the Psychologist’s Studio with Gordon Bower & Gordon H. Bower: Translating Clark Hull’s Learning Theory into Estes’ Statistical Theory [This video is extremely technical.]
43. Harold Harding Kelley (1921-2003): Kelly researched the psychology of interpersonal relationships, developing attribution theory and interdependence theory in his thirty three year collaboration with John Thibaut. Reading: Attribution theory and research & The warm-cold variable in first impressions of persons & Analyzing close relationships. Viewing: Attribution theory and social psychology explained with examples.
44. Roger Wolcott Sperry (1913-1994): Sperry conducted neuropsychological research on the nature of consciousness, nerve growth and regeneration, and people with split brain syndrome, greatly advancing the field and inspiring generations of future research. Reading: Cerebral organization and behaviour & The Growth of Nerve Circuits & Hemisphere deconnection and unity in conscious awareness. Viewing: Split-brain patient “Joe’ being tested with stimuli presented in different visual fields [Some of the information in this video is outdated. Michael Gazzaniga, the psychologist in this video, was Sperry’s student.]
45. Edward Chace Tolman (1886-1959): Tolman, in addition to fighting for academic freedom researched behaviour and learning in animals, creating his own branch of behaviourism called “purposive behaviourism” which also considered cognitive factors such as knowledge and decision-making. Reading: The determiners of behaviour at a choice point (http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.211.3611&rep=rep1&type=pdf) & Cognitive maps in rats and men (https://app.nova.edu/toolbox/instructionalproducts/edd8124/articles/1948-Tolman-CognitiveMaps.pdf). Viewing: Psych: Tolman’s rats, latent learning, & cognitive maps (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVKStdkkRJs).
46. Stanley Milgram (1933-1984): Milgram’s experiments on helping and anti-social behaviours, obedience to authority, and the six degrees of separation (“small-world problem”) are among the most influential and well-known studies in social psychology. Reading: Some conditions of obedience and disobedience to authority & The small-world problem & The lost-letter technique: A tool of social research. Viewing: The Milgram experiment 1962 full documentary.
47. Arthur Robert Jensen (1923-2012): Jensen researched intelligence testing, advanced the concept of general intelligence, and published highly controversial studies on the relationship between genes, race, and IQ. Reading: What is a good G? & Thirty years of research on race differences in cognitive ability. Viewing: Arthur Jensen on Intelligence 1.
48. Lee Joseph Cronbach (1916-2001): Cronbach researched psychological testing and measurement and developed theories and methods for evaluating educational programs, investigating the teaching-learning process, and determining reliability of results (Cronbach’s alpha). Reading: Toward reform of program evaluation & Beyond the two disciplines of scientific psychology & My current thoughts on coefficient alpha and successor procedures. Viewing: What is Cronbach’s Alpha?.
49. Edward John Mostyn Bowlby (1907-1990): Bowlby first taught maladjusted children, then worked as a doctor for families escaping war, before training as a psychoanalyst under Melanie Klein, and devising experiments alongside Mary Ainsworth, all of this leading to the development of Attachment Theory, the most influential theory of bonding and love. Reading: Maternal Care and Mental Health & the Attachment and Loss book series. Viewing: Psychotherapy – John Bowlby & John Bowlby Attachment Theory Across Generations.
50. Wolfgang Köhler (1887-1967): Köhler [Koo-lah] researched animal and human insight, perception, problem solving, creating the field of Gestalt Psychology with Max Wertheimer and Kurt Koffka. Reading: Gestalt Psychology: An Introduction to New Concepts in Modern Psychology & One Man Against the Nazis – Wolfgang Köhler. Viewing: Insight Learning: the Early Work of Wolfgang Köhler.
51. David Wechsler (1896-1981): Wechsler developed psychological tests, the most well-known of which are the standardized intelligence tests WAIS (Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale), WISC (Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children), and WPPSI (Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence). Reading: The Range of Human Capacities. Viewing: Overview of Wechsler Intelligence Tests.
52. Stanley Smith Stevens (1906-1973): Stevens’ research in psychoacoustics, many years of professorship, and publications in experimental psychology lead to significant developments in psychometrics, especially in the adoption of operational definitions in psychological research. Reading: On the Theory of Scales of Measurement & The Direct Estimation of Sensory Magnitudes – Loudness & Problems and Methods of Psychophysics.
53. Joseph Wolpe (1915-1997): Wolpe’s work as a psychiatrist for soldiers at war lead him to develop new methods of treating anxiety, phobias, and post-traumatic stress, including reciprocal inhibition and systematic desensitization, among other techniques which greatly advanced behavioural therapy. Reading: Behaviour Therapy Versus Psychoanalysis & Test of Time: ‘Reciprocal Inhibition as the Main basis of Psychotherapeutic Effects’ by Joseph Wolpe (1954). Viewing: Joseph Wolpe on Systematic Desensitization.
54. Donald Eric Broadbent (1926-1993): Broadbent helped to form the field of cognitive psychology through his experimentation and theories of learning, memory, and attention, especially the concept of selective attention. Reading: Perception and Communication & A Mechanical Model for Human Attention and Immediate Memory & From Detection to Identification: Response to Multiple Targets in Rapid Serial Visual Presentation. Viewing: Theories of Selective Attention (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpsaHE_uZic) (This video also includes Broadbent’s model, as well as others.)
55. Roger Newland Shepard (1929-present): Shepard's research in human perception of the physical world, illusions and mental rotation, have lead to ground-breaking advances in cognitive science. Reading: Toward a Universal Law of Generalization for Psychological Science & Mental Rotation of Three-Dimensional Objects & Ecological Constraints on Internal Representation: Resonant Kinematics of Perceiving, Imagining, Thinking, and Dreaming. Viewing: What do you really know? These tables will test you & The sound illusion that makes Dunkirk so intense.
56. Michael Posner (1936-present): Posner advanced both cognitive psychology and neuropsychology with his in-depth research on attention and attentional networks. Reading: Orienting of Attention & The Attention System of the Human Brain. Viewing: Inside the Psychologist’s Studio with Michael Posner & Michael Posner of the anatomy of attentional networks – a historical perspective.
57. Theodore Mead Newcomb (1903-1984): Newcomb’s research on acquaintance-making, attraction, how groups affect individual attitudes, and the influence of college on students have been influential in the field of social psychology. Reading: The acquaintance process as a prototype of human interaction & The Impact of College on Students. (I could not find any free articles nor quality videos on Newcomb. Please let me know if you find any.)
58. Elizabeth Fishman Loftus (1944-present): Loftus advanced cognitive psychology, forensic psychology, and the legal professions by researching eyewitness memory, false memories, the effects of misinformation on memory, and recovered memories. Reading: The Formation of False Memories & Planting misinformation in the human mind: A 30-year investigation of the malleability of memory & Leading Questions and the Eyewitness Report & The Reality of Repressed Memories. Viewing: How reliable is your memory? | Elizabeth Loftus & Elizabeth Loftus | The Memory Factory || Radcliffe Institute.
59. Paul Ekman (1934-present): Ekman’s research on emotion and facial expression, especially on the universal emotions (anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise) has been influential in social psychology, psychotherapy, and is well-known in the public sphere as well, especially Reading: Constants across cultures in the face and emotion & Facial expression and emotion & An Argument for Basic Emotions & Universal Facial Expressions of Emotion. Viewing: Paul Ekman: Outsmart Evolution and Master Your Emotions & Exploring Facial Expressions with Paul Ekman & The Atlas of Emotions with Dr. Paul Ekman and Dr. Eve Ekman.
60. Robert Jeffrey Sternberg (1949-present): Sternberg researched creativity and intelligence, giftedness, hate and love, thinking styles, and wisdom, developing the triarchic theory of intelligence and triangular theory of love. Reading: A Triangular Theory of Love & The Nature of Creativity & The Concept of Intelligence and Its Role in Lifelong Learning and Success & Are Cognitive Styles Still in Style?. Viewing: Robert J. Sternberg: Are We Creating a Society of Smart Fools?.
61. Karl Spencer Lashley (1890-1958): Lashley researched the process of learning and memory in the brain, combining behaviourist and neuropsychological approaches. Reading: Basic Neural Mechanisms in Behaviour & The Behaviouristic Interpretation of Consciousness & Integrative Functions of the Cerebral Cortex. Viewing: Karl Lashley 12.6.2016.
62. Kenneth Wartinbee Spence (1907-1967): Spence researched animal and human behaviour, learning, and motivation, the role of anxiety in each of these, and had a fruitful teaching career. Reading: Behavior theory and conditioning & The basis of solution by chimpanzees of the intermediate size problem & The differential response in animals to stimuli varying within a single dimension.
63. Morton Deutsch (1920-2017): Deutsch’s ground-breaking research in conflict resolution included studies and publications on nuclear deterrence, the prisoner’s dilemma, racial attitudes (in the 1950s and 1960s!), and transfers of power. Reading: A study of normative and informational social influences upon individual judgement & A Theory of co-operation and competition & Constructive conflict resolution: Principles, training, and research & Educating for a peaceful world. Viewing: Morton Deutsch.
64. Julian Rotter (1916-2014): Rotter developed social learning theory (not the same as Bandura) and the concept of locus of control, which have both been tremendously influential in clinical, personality, and social psychology. Reading: Internal versus external control of reinforcement & Generalized expectancies for internal versus external control of reinforcement. Viewing: Julian Rotter Locus of Control (A funny video providing an illustration of locus of control.)
65. Konrad Zacharias Lorenz (1903-1989): Lorenz’ research on animal behaviour and instinct, including his famous studies of imprinting in geese, formed the basis of the field of ethology and have been tremendously influential in psychology. Reading: King Solomon’s Ring & The companion in the bird’s world & The evolution of behaviour & Innate bases of learning. Viewing: Konrad Lorenz – Science of Animal Behaviour (1975).
66. Benton Underwood (1915-1994): Underwood researched memory and forgetting, especially implicit and verbal memory, and advanced experimental psychology through his creative approach to professorship and theoretical publications. Reading: Individual differences as a crucible of theory construction & Critical issues in interference theory.
67. Alfred Adler (1870-1937): Adler was one of the first psychotherapists and developed his own school of psychoanalysis, introduced influential concepts to the public such as the inferiority complex the impact of birth order on personality type, and helped to form the field of community psychology. Reading: Understanding Human Nature & Social Interest: A Challenge to Mankind. Viewing: The Psychology of Alfred Adler: Superiority, Inferiority, and Courage & What is Adlerian Therapy?.
68. Michael Llewellyn Rutter (1933-2021): Rutter’s work as a child psychiatrist and researcher in developmental psychology, especially in the areas of autism, early deprivation, and maternal bonding, advanced attachment theory and helped to found the field of child psychology. Reading: Developing Minds & Specificity and heterogeneity in children’s responses to profound institutional privation & Psycho-social Disorders in Childhood, and their outcome in adult life. Viewing: The father of modern child psychiatry on gene-environment interactions & Michael Rutter Maternal Deprivation.
69. Alexander Romanovich Luria (1902-1977): Luria is most well-known for his work as a doctor and neuropsychologist to brain-injured patients documented in his detailed case-histories, yet his research also included the higher cognitive functions, the interplay of biology and culture in the makeup of the psyche, the nature of consciousness and language, and the relation of brain and psyche. Reading: The Mind of a Mnemonist & L.S. Vygotsky and A.R. Luria: Foundations of Neuropsychology. Viewing: Oliver Sacks about Alexander Luria & Towards the Problem of the Historical Nature of Psychological Processes by Alexander Luria. Resource: University of California San Diego Luria Library (This is an incredible resource with audio, photos, publications, and videos about Luria.)
70. Eleanor Emmons Maccoby (1917-2018): Maccoby’s research on child development, divorce and separation, gender development, parent-child interactions, and sex differences have been tremendously influential in both gender studies and psychology. Reading: Gender and Relationships & Contemporary research on parenting: The case for nature and nurture & The role of parents in the socialization of children: An historical overview. Viewing: Inside the Psychologist’s Studio with Eleanor Maccoby.
71. Robert Plomin (1948-present): Plomin founded the field of behavioural genetics through his now-famous twin studies, which have demonstrated how human genetic makeup and environmental influences interact to influence intelligence and personality. Reading: Behavioural Genetics & Blueprint: How DNA makes us who we are & Why are children in the same family so different from one another?. Viewing: Is it Nature instead of Nurture that Makes You, You?.
72. Granville Stanley Hall (1846-1924) [tied at 72nd place]: Hall founded the first journal of psychology in North America, was appointed as the first president of the American Psychological Association, invited early pioneers of psychoanalysis to America (Freud and Jung, among others), introduced the concept of adolescence to modern science, and established the place of educational psychology as a research discipline. Reading: Adolescence: Its psychology and its relations to physiology, anthropology, sociology, sex, crime, religion, and education. Viewing: G. Stanley Hall.
72. Lewis Madison Terman (1877-1956) [tied at 72nd place]: Terman researched intelligence testing and giftedness in children, his most influential study being the “Genetic Studies of Genius” which followed gifted children as they grew over a 35-year period. Reading: The Promise of Youth: Follow-up Studies of a Thousand Gifted Children. Viewing: Lewis Terman’s Complicated Legacy.
74. Eleanor Jack Gibson (1910-2002) [tied at 74th place]: Gibson’s research in the interplay between learning and perception in infants and children has been influential in education, especially in reading development, and developmental psychology. Reading: Perceptual learning: Differentiation or enrichment? & Exploratory behaviour in the development of perceiving, acting, and the acquiring of knowledge & An Ecological Approach to Perceptual Learning and Development. Viewing: Gibson – Visual Cliff Experiments (affordances) – 1960s.
74. Paul Everett Meehl (1920-2003) [tied at 74th place]: Meehl contributed to both clinical and experimental psychology through his research and writing on the philosophy of psychology, psychological assessment, research methods, schizophrenia, and theory-testing. Reading: Clinical Versus Statistical Prediction & Theory-testing in psychology and physics & Clinical versus actuarial judgment & Why summaries of research on psychological theories are often uninterpretable. Viewing: Paul Meehl – Philosophical Psychology Lecture 1/12.
76. Leonard Berkowitz (1926-2016): Berkowitz studied aggression, altruism, anger, impulsiveness, and the range of human feelings and their personal and social determinants and effects, challenging and revising the influential frustration-aggression hypothesis. Reading: Frustration-aggression hypothesis: Examination and reformulation & Toward an understanding of the determinants of anger & Causes and consequences of feelings.
77. William Kaye Estes (1919-2011): Estes re-shaped experimental psychology through successfully integrating mathematical and statistical models with behavioural science, which revolutionized quantitative psychology. Reading: Some quantitative properties of anxiety & Toward a statistical theory of learning. Viewing: William K. Estes – 1997 National Medals in Science,
78. Elliot Aronson (1932-present): Aronson’s early research focused on reformulating the theory of cognitive dissonance, while his career since then has spanned a broad range of topics in social psychology, including attraction, career burnout, persuasion, self-concept and the creation of the Jigsaw Classroom. Reading: The Social Animal & The effect of severity of initiation on liking for a group & Dissonance, hypocrisy, and the self-concept. Viewing: Elliot Aronson: The Power of Self-Persuasion & Elliot Aronson: The Scientist and the Humanist.
79. Irving Lester Janis (1918-1990): Janis initially researched attitude change and morale in the military, turning his attention later to decision making and group processes, and developed the influential concept of groupthink. Reading: Groupthink & Effects of fear-arousing communications. Viewing: The Bay of Pigs Invasion – How Groupthink Created a Brilliant Disaster. (Janis is not in this video, but the story is built on his ideas.)
80. Richard S. Lazarus (1922-2002): Lazarus conducted extensive research on appraisal, emotions, and stress and coping which ran contrary to the popular zeitgeist of behaviourism in his early career. Reading: Stress, Appraisal, and Coping & Coping theory and research: Past, present, and future & Emotion and adaptation. Viewing: Lazarus & Folkman Transactional Model of Stress & Coping.
81. Walter Bradford Cannon (1871-1945): Cannon was an early researcher in the mind-body connection, studied the physiology of emotion, and developed the concepts of “fight or flight” and homeostasis which have been tremendously influential in psychology. Reading; The Wisdom of the Body & Organization for physiological homeostasis & The emergency function of the adrenal medulla in pain and the major emotions.
82. Allen L. Edwards (1914-1994): Edwards integrated novel statistical models and research designs into experimental psychology and psychological measurement, developing scales for measuring personal preferences, personality, and social desirability. (I could not locate any original writing by Edwards nor accessible videos on his life work.)
83. Lev Semenovich Vygotsky (1896-1934): Vygotsky’s influence has been greatest in developmental psychology and education, where his research on art, communication, culture, higher mental functions, internalization of experience and knowledge, language and speech, learning and learning disabilities, play, reading, and thinking, including the concept of Zone of Proximal Development. Reading: Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes & Thought and Language (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/817530.Thought_and_Language) & Psychology of Art & Play and its role in the mental development of the child. Viewing: Vygotsky’s Cognitive Development Through Social Relationships.
84. Robert Rosenthal (1933-present): Rosenthal researched the social psychology of non-verbal communication and self-fulfilling prophecies, the latter being published in the well-known study of the Pygmalion Effect in schools. Reading: Pygmalion in the Classroom & The “File Drawer Problem” and Tolerance for Null Results. Viewing: The Pygmalion Effect.
85. Milton Rokeach (1918-1988): Rokeach researched human attitudes, beliefs, politics, religions, and values, and published the well-known study of three men with schizophrenia who believed themselves to be Jesus Christ. Reading: The Three Christs of Ypsilanti & Long-Rnage Experimental Modification of Values, Attitudes, and Behavior & Understanding Human Values.
86. John Garcia (1917-2012) [tied at 86th place]: Garcia’s research on association and aversion as determinants of behaviour and learning have been Reading: A general theory of aversion learning & Relation of cue to consequence in avoidance learning. Viewing: John Garcia’s Conditioned Taste Aversion.
86. James Jerome Gibson (1904-1979) [tied at 86th place]: Gibson researched sensory perception, created the concept of affordance, and proposed that the environment and living organisms (such as animals) must be understood together, not separately. Reading: The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception & The Senses Considered as Perceptual Systems. Viewing: Direct perception – Gibson’s bottom up approach.
86. David Everett Rumelhart (1942-2011) [tied at 86th place]: Rumelhart’s research in internal representation (schemata), learning, perception, and thinking has been tremendously influential in artificial intelligence, anthropology, and cognitive science. Reading: Learning representations by back-propagating errors & A general framework for parallel distributed processing & Parallel Distributed Processing: Explorations in the Microstructure of Cognition. Viewing: The Interactive Activation Model.
86. Louis Leon Thurstone (1887-1955) [tied at 86th place]: Thurstone researched intelligence and introduced a number of approaches to psychological measurement, including factor analysis, the normal distribution, and the law of comparative judgment. Reading: Multiple factor analysis & A law of comparative judgment.
86. Margaret Floy Washburn (1871-1939) [tied at 86th place]: Washburn was the first woman to earn a Ph.D. in psychology, the second to serve as the president of the APA, and a creative researcher in the behaviour and mental processes of animals (all the way down to the amoeba) and humans. Reading: Autobiography of Margaret Floy Washburn & The loss of associative power in words after long fixation. Viewing: Experimental Pscyhology’s First Woman Practitioner.
86. Robert Sessions Woodworth (1869-1962) [tied at 86th place]: Woodworth developed what is considered the first personality test during World War I, wrote two of the earliest textbooks in psychology, and spent the later part of his career researching motivation. Reading: Dynamic Psychology & The influence of improvement in one mental function upon the efficiency of other functions.
92. Edwin Garrigues “Gary” Boring (1886-1968) [tied at 92nd place]: Boring was a prolific researcher, professor, and writer who became one of the first historians of psychology and conducted studies in sensation and perception. Reading: History of Experimental Pscyhology & A History of Introspection & The psychology of controversy.
92. John Dewey (1859-1952) [tied at 92nd place]: Dewey was a tremendously influential educator, philosopher, and psychologist who, in his lifetime, advocated for for academic freedom; democracy in education, journalism, and politics; and for a more pragmatic psychology. Reading: Experience & Education & Experience & Nature & How we think. Viewing: John Dewey’s 4 Principles of Progressive Education & John Dewey’s Theories on Education and Learning.
92. Amos Nathan Tversky (1937-1996) [tied at 92nd place]: Tversky researched cognitive biases, decision-making, fallacies, judgement, and risk-taking, collaborating for much of his work with his long-time colleague Daniel Kahneman. Reading: Loss aversion in riskless choice & Availability: A heuristic for judging frequency and probability & Judgement under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases. Viewing: Daniel Kahneman – On Amos Tversky & Kahneman and Tversky: How heuristics impact our judgment.
92. Wilhelm Maximilian Wundt (1832-1920) [tied at 92nd place]: Wundt founded the first psychology research laboratory, established experimental psychology as a discipline separate from biology and philosophy, and published research on an immense range of topics including animal and human physiology and psychology, the brain, cultural psychology (or “Völkerpsychologie”), ethics, history, hypnotism, linguistics, logic, medicine, the origins of knowledge, politics, religion and spirituality, and vision, among others. Reading: Lectures on Animal and Human Psychology & Elements of Folk Psychology. Viewing: Wundt and the Founding of Psychology.
96. Herman A Witkin (1916-1979): Witkin researched ability, cognitive structure, learning, perception, and personality, developing the theories of cognitive styles and learning styles. Reading: Psychological differentiation in cross-cultural perspective & Field-dependent and field-independent cognitive styles and their educational implications.
97. Mary Dinsmore Ainsworth (1913-1999): Ainsworth established the rigorous experimental basis of attachment theory which remains to this day through her collaboration with John Bowlby and independent experiments in child-parent attachment and attachment styles in childhood and adulthood. Reading: Attachment across the life span & Patterns of infant-mother attachments & The effects of maternal deprivation. Viewing: The Strange Situation – Mary Ainsworth & Attachment Research – A 1991 Conversation with Mary Ainsworth.
98. Orval Hobart Mowrer (1907-1982): Mowrer advanced behaviour therapy in his work as a psychotherapist; researched learning, motivation, and personality dynamics; and later developed integrity groups, a form of group therapy. Reading: Preserving guilt in the “age of psychology”: The curious career of O. Hobart Mowrer.
99. Anna Freud (1895-1982): Freud applied psychoanalysis in work with children, founding the first schools of child analysis, integrating children’s play into the therapy process, and wrote widely on defense mechanisms, ego development, psychopathology in childhood, and the training of therapists. Reading: Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense & Normality and Pathology in Childhood. Viewing: Psychotherapy – Anna Freud & Anna Freud.
What is Eminence?
Webster’s Encyclopedic Dictionary defines “eminent” as “distinguished, widely thought of as superior in some way, outstanding, conspicuous” and “eminence” as “distinction in society or in a profession” as well as “a piece of high ground.” Both terms (words) come from the Latin word eminare, a verb that means “to stand out.” So, the eminence study sought to name the 100 people from 1900-1999 who were the most distinguished and superior or those who “stand out” the most.
When psychologists do research, they need to give an “operational definition” for the important terms they use. An operational definition is a more specific definition of a term that makes it possible to research. This usually means making the term measurable or testable. In the eminence study, the most important word is “eminence.” Haggbloom and colleagues operationally defined “eminence” as a combination of six different variables. Three variables are quantitative, which means that they can be measured by a number. The quantitative variables in the eminence study are the person’s number of (a) journal citations, (b) introductory psychology textbook citations, and (c) survey responses. When a researcher or writer quotes or refers to another person’s research or writing, it is called a “citation.” The survey given in variable (c) asked 1,725 members of the American Psychological Association (APA) to name the three greatest psychologists in their own specialization (or “branch” of psychology). The survey also asked these people to name as many of the greatest psychologists in the 20th century in the “overall field of psychology.”
To the Persons not on The List
Women have been treated atrociously throughout the history of science. Joan Erikson does not appear on The List, yet her husband does, despite her significant contributions to the theory of ego development across the lifespan. Eleanor Jack Gibson faced decades of gender discrimination, doing unpaid work at Cornell University for 16 years. Anna Freud's lesbianism is still a hush-hush topic, swept under the rug of history, despite the fact that her family accepted her and her tremendously valuable contributions to psychotherapy.
Many of the most important women in the history of psychology do not appear on The List. Mary Calkins was the first female president of the APA. Melanie Klein and Karen Horney transformed psychoanalysis and made therapy more accessible to "normal" people. Mamie Phipps Clark conducted some of the first studies on the effects of discrimination. Her master's thesis, in which she studied the experience black pre-school-aged children in segregated schools, was conducted in 1939, years before desegregation. Play therapy, among the only effective means of therapy for children younger than 5, became what it is today because of Virginia Axline and Dora Kalff. Brenda Milner, referred to here as "the founder of neuropsychology, published her most recent research paper at 97 years of age and was still speaking publicly at 100. Marsha Linehan's "Dialectical Behaviour Therapy" has radically improved the lives of many thousands of people. Judith Herman brought public consciousness to the uncomfortable realities of incest and trauma, which has since lead to the development of trauma-informed practices in counselling, education, massage, medicine, and psychotherapy. Carol Gilligan's early publications in moral development was dogma-shattering and she continues to be one of the most important voices in psychology today. Calkins, Klein, Horney, Clark, Axline, Kalff, Milner, Linehan, Herman, and Gilligan are all absent from the list of the most eminent psychologists of the 20th century, yet their work remains tremendously important today.
In a 2018 interview, Gilligan remarked (emphasis mine):
To the girls, women, and female-identifying persons reading this article: do not let The List discourage you. The 20th Century has past and we are in a new era for science. Let's work together to recognize the incredible women like those listed above, empower all young people with big dreams, and to take action against discrimination. Let the list of the most eminent psychologists of the 21st Century include the voices of women.